Barista's engineering future after lockdown inspired career change

A New Plymouth barista who spent the Covid-19 lockdown researching how to change careers has quit his job and gone back to study.

Antony Manjali has spent 15 years managing bars and restaurants and the past year-and-a-half memorizing engineers’ coffee orders at Escape Coffee.

Now he’s on a path to becoming one studying an NZ diploma of engineering (civil).

“We had more time in hand to think about what we wanted to do and it was just the perfect time to change,” he said.

Manjali is one of the hundreds of students taking advantage of the current zero-fees enrolments at Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki.

The free training scheme was rolled out during lockdown, in part to make it easier for those made jobless during the Covid-19 restrictions to retrain.

Manjali ’s interest in science and maths had grown in the last few years and during the lockdown, he had researched how people changed their careers. So when it ended he was ready to do something new.

“I thought I’ve got nothing to lose, I’m going to give it a good crack and see what happens.

“I just wanted to do something that would make my brain tick differently.”

Manjali said going back to study was one of the best decisions he’s ever made.
ANDY JACKSON/STUFF
Manjali said going back to study was one of the best decisions he’s ever made.

Witt’s second trimester started on Monday and enrolments were up by more than 150 domestic equivalent full-time students, compared to 2019.

International student numbers remained at about 300 full-time students, as most stayed in the country during the lockdown.

But Witt was unable to take on any more international students in semester two due to border restrictions.

Witt Chief Executive John Snook said demand was up across the board, with a particularly strong interest in trades such as construction, plumbing, and mechanical engineering.

Snook said there were strong enrolment figures in the arts and design and health-care related courses.

“Earlier in the month we welcomed over 30 first-year Bachelor of Nursing students, and more than 40 people enrolled to become Health Care Assistants.”

“That’s 70 people that are here training to be the future of our healthcare sector. That’s exactly the reason Witt is here – to deliver the skilled workforce our region needs.”

Snook said although the second trimester started on Monday, the door was still open for new learners to apply.

“There will be people out there who have been considering upskilling or retraining but are still on the fence. It’s important that they know it’s not too late.”